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26 November 2015 @ 07:09 pm
Sleep No More  
It is funny how opinion can seem radically different even across fairly closely overlapping circles. This has been brought home to me a couple of times recently, firstly when [personal profile] miss_s_b complained about everyone singing the praises of Julian Bleach's Davros while ignoring Michelle Gomez's Missy which was quite the opposite to what I was seeing (so much so, that I just had to go and look up who played Davros on Wikipedia). I was going to start this review by saying something along the lines of "I seem to be the only person who didn't much like Sleep No More" except that [personal profile] sir_guinglain pretty much started his with the line "I seem to be the only person who liked Sleep No More".

It's a difficult story to get a good hold on. "None of this makes sense!" the Doctor cries at the end and, as the viewer, we are supposed to realise that the dots intentionally fail to join in a particularly coherent fashion. As an idea, this has potential and fits in neatly with the unreliable narrator and found footage ideas that the episode is also playing with. As an advantage these are not concepts Doctor Who has really played with before. However I felt the end result was ultimately too incoherent, even the bits that probably definitely did happen didn't quite seem to fit together.

I felt the episode also suffered, as 45 did, from failing to have the conviction of its own conceit. The reveal that some of the "footage" was actually from the viewpoint of the characters, was very cleverly done, but then widening that so that the cameras could be anywhere seemed to void the whole point of shooting as "found footage" in the first place. There was no found footage, scenes were constructed with a camera wherever the director wanted, and the episode cinematography actually had no constraints.

I think the biggest disappointment was the sand monsters though and I've been struggling to figure out why they don't work. An obvious contrast is the Weeping Angels where a number of disparate elements (eyes covered/don't blink, send you back in time, swift movement) have been blended together in a way that makes them appear a logical whole even though they are not. There is no reason, therefore, why throwing not-sleeping+sand-in-the-corner-of-your-eye+converts-people together shouldn't result in something equally effective but for some reason the end result is mostly ridiculous. Tame layman did a lot of snorting while the whole thing was rather inadequately explained. It also seems very odd that the key idea wasn't related to dreams or nightmares, that was basically what I was expecting and sentient sleep sand was always going to have to work hard to beat that kind of expectation.

I didn't like the Shakespeare quoting much either. I mean, Capaldi's great at that kind of thing but lengthy Shakespeare quotes make me think of mediocre fanfic. Just because you have sleep as a hook in your story (and not even, it transpired, a particularly thematically rich hook as far as the story was concerned) and Shakespeare has written things about sleep in prose that is more beautiful than anything you could write, doesn't actually make it a good idea to abdicate writing any words of your own so you can just dump some Shakespeare into things. I felt this scene typified what was wrong with the story, the writing and plot construction lacked the awareness of when a cute idea can't actually be sustained by the surrounding edifice.

I've maybe been a little harsh above and I've seen a lot worse Doctor Who in my time. But this was the weakest episode this season and ultimately I didn't think it was clever that it made no sense. I just thought it made no sense.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/179595.html.
wellinghallwellinghall on November 26th, 2015 06:44 pm (UTC)
From the trailers &c, I was all set up to really like this episode, but it completely failed to grip me. I am not the dedicated NuWho watcher that many people are, but this was the weakest of the series for me.
louisedennislouisedennis on November 26th, 2015 07:56 pm (UTC)
It had a lot of idea that could have worked really well but somehow didn't, which is a shame.
wellinghall: Goldiewellinghall on November 26th, 2015 07:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, you have described it exactly.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on November 27th, 2015 11:29 am (UTC)
I think this is the best commentary I've read on this story. I have no idea what the story was really about. I'd add that it seemed to set up stuff that went nowhere eg. the song-activated doors, surely setting up a moment of comedy/tension tension never materialised.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 27th, 2015 03:15 pm (UTC)
I think the song-activated doors could be explained as something Rasmussen included in the scenario because it is the kind of thing that happens in these sorts of scenarios. It doesn't need to make sense, just retain the attention for long enough for the electronic signal to embed itself in the viewers brain. It's a mediocre fanfic move again. The problem, of course, is that bits that can't be explained away as Rasmussen creating a mediocre story (e.g., the Doctor quoting Shakespeare which was outside his control) happen as well, so there is no clear delineation between bits that don't make sense because Rasmussen couldn't be bothered to make them make sense, and bits that don't make sense because the writer/production team couldn't be bothered to make them make sense.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on December 4th, 2015 02:48 am (UTC)
The only thing I liked about it was the hand-hold running. It wasn't scary. It was just dark as in lighting, not creepy.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on December 4th, 2015 09:10 am (UTC)
That's probably part of it. At the end we weren't "ooh! creepy idea!" over the concept that the infection was somehow being transmitted by the video we were just "wait! what? how does that make sense?" which I assume is the opposite of what they were aiming at.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on December 4th, 2015 11:56 am (UTC)
On one hand it look like a filler episode but then again it also had:

(1) A type of pod which has popped up already during this series.

(2) Ended "up in the air", making way for a sequel.

But I didn't find it intriguing at all. The had a bad feeling about the guy telling the story from the start so him very slowly dissolving at the end was "blah" if I can be so blunt.

Plus most of the elements that I manage to pick up on despite the bad lighting reminded me of previous Moffat episodes.

Night Terrors was more "interesting". At least that had some memorable quotes and a bit of humor. I wish Peter Capaldi was given better dialogue. I just focused on his acting in this.